The weekend papers are filled with grim poll predictions for the Conservative party – and good news for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. An Opinium poll suggests that the Brexit party will win a larger share of the vote in the European elections than the Tory party and Labour combined. With regards to a general election, the Telegraph has published a poll which says the Brexit Party has also overtaken the Conservatives in Westminster voting intention for the first time – and predicts that the party would win 49 seats in a general election now. Building on that momentum, Farage appeared on the Andrew Marr sofa this morning to lay out his party’s pitch ahead of the vote later this month. However, things didn’t go quite to plan with Farage going on to accuse the BBC broadcaster of carrying out the ‘most ridiculous interview ever’.
On Brexit, Farage batted off suggestions that he had changed his tune from the referendum when he spoke of getting a Brexit deal – and showed some sympathy towards the Norway model. The Brexit Party leader said the government had bungled the opportunity that was there to get a good trade deal with the EU. Now that wasn’t a viable option the only route left to honour the referendum result was to plump for a WTO Brexit. Farage said that the fact his party hadn’t published a manifesto was a positive – as manifestoes these days had become associated with lies. He went on to say that both the main parties would now suffer – and their misery would go on well beyond this month’s EU elections:
‘Who knows what the future is. What I do know is that we have a two party system that now serves nothing but itself. There is a complete breakdown of trust between the people of this country and the politicians and frankly they’ve revealed themselves to be grossly incompetent. What I do want to see from this European election, I’m going to demand that Brexit Party MEPs become part of the government negotiating team.’
Although Farage suggested that he had no particular desire to be prime minister himself, Marr pressed him as leader of the Brexit Party on previous comments he had made on domestic issues. This was the point in which the interview became bad-tempered with Farage growing frustrated at Marr’s questions which he claimed distracted from the main issue.
Marr pressed Farage on whether he believed the NHS ought to be privatised; ‘If I was encouraged to opt out of the system to relieve the burden on the NHS I would do so gleefully. Do you want discuss these European elections or not?’. He asked Farage whether gun control should be rolled back in the UK, if he believed Vladimir Putin’s leadership style was something to be admired and whether worrying about global warming was ‘the stupidest thing in human history’. In response, Farage replied: ‘I believe that if we decide in this country to tax ourselves to the hilt, to put hundreds of thousands of people out of work in manufacturing industries given that we produce less than 2% of global CO2, that isn’t terribly intelligent’.
While Farage answered a number of the questions, he eventually turned his ire on Marr – accusing him of ‘being in denial’:
‘This is absolutely ludicrous. I’ve never in my life seen a more ridiculous interview than this. You are not prepared to talk about what is going on in this country today. You’re in denial, the BBC is in denial, the Tory and Labour parties are in denial.’
For many voters the European elections are about one thing: Brexit. It follows that what Farage thinks about an NHS opt-out is unlikely to be top of the decision-making process. The beauty of the Brexit Party campaign is its simplicity – the party’s MEP candidates come from across the political spectrum but all agree that the UK should already be out of the EU and today’s politicians are complicit in that failure. However, today’s interview is a reminder of the difficulties the party could face moving to a general election setting where domestic policies would come under greater scrutiny.